IT is “well past time to panic about infection rates and publish them obsessively”.

That was the plea at the end of June by one of the scientists, Professor Robert Dingwall, who sits on the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

His rationale of course is that case numbers, while reaching record highs, no longer translate into hospitalisations and deaths in the way they did pre-vaccines.

As a health journalist who has covered the pandemic since the beginning, I would humbly disagree.

One, because these numbers are still important, both to gauge what impact lifting restrictions has on virus rates and in terms of non-fatal risks, such as Long Covid.

Secondly, because I think the public has a right to be informed and it is for the media to do our best to provide clarity and context.

Scrapping daily figures because they might become confusing or might lend themselves to scaremongering coverage is not really the answer.

Much better to explain, for instance, that at the peak of the second wave in January Scotland recorded more than 16,262 Covid cases in a week, of which 13 per cent – 2,114 – went on to require hospital admission.

Set against this we have the record-breaking 24,181 cases reported in the week ending July 4, of which an estimated 3% – 725 – will end up in hospital.

Even then this does not tell the full story, however. In January, most Covid patients in hospital were older, sicker with pre-existing health conditions, and more likely to die.

Now many are younger, unvaccinated, but quicker to recover – yet the NHS is also trying to remobilise for non-Covid care and every bed lost to a Covid patient is one less for someone waiting for elective surgery.

Like nearly everything during the pandemic, case numbers are not a black and white issue.

Even the definition of a case varies, from symptomatic infections confirmed through PCR testing (the “daily data”) to those picked up by community household surveillance (the weekly ONS data) designed to give a more accurate picture of the virus prevalence by detecting asymptomatic cases as well.

How we report mortality can also range from confirmed Covid deaths to excess deaths from all causes.

On vaccinations, the risk of a blood clot from AstraZeneca is tiny but slightly outweighs the probability of someone under-40 requiring intensive care for Covid. However, if virus rates rise above a certain threshold, the equation shifts back in favour of AZ , even for the young. This kind of nuance cannot really fit into a headline – but it should be in the copy.